Baltimore’s historic Lexington Market is joining DC Theater Arts in support of our coverage of the Charm City Fringe Festival. The Market closes at 6 PM on weekdays and is closed Sundays, but we recommend that Fringe-goers stop by on Saturday to grab lunch and take a look around, in addition to checking out the local bands which play from 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM.
Lexington Market currently has more than 100 vendors, offering everything from world famous crab cakes, fried chicken, authentic Indian delicacies, corned beef, fresh seafood and verdant produce. In their iconic building, you can get a snack, buy some groceries, or sit down for a meal. Lexington Market is a great place to visit for any reason, with over 230 years of history and atmosphere to feed curious minds. It’s easy to get to Lexington Market by road, sidewalk, or rail.
Founded in 1782 at the site where it stands today, Lexington Market is the oldest market in America and has served Baltimore and surrounding communities for more than nine generations. General John Eager Howard, of Revolutionary War fame, donated a portion of his family pasture land to be used as a market. The site was originally known as the Western Precincts Market but was soon renamed in memory of the Battle of Lexington, the first battle of the American Revolution.
Many farmers would spend all night traveling to make it to Lexington Market by the ringing of the 2:00 AM opening bell. Wealthier merchants joined these growers, bartering with essentials like grain, hay, farm equipment, and live animals. In 1803, a large shed was built to give some shelter and structure to the growing marketplace.
By the mid-nineteenth century, it was unquestionably the largest, most famous market on earth. During its years of growth, many of America’s most important figures experienced Lexington Market, the 2:00 AM and Noon bells opening and closing the day, every Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday.
Statesman Daniel Webster visited the market in 1785, and Lexington was written about by artists like painter James McNeill and novelist William Thackeray. When Ralph Waldo Emerson visited the Market he proclaimed Baltimore the “Gastronomic capital of the world.”
After the Civil War, and through the turn of the 20th century, Lexington Market was a recognized social center for the most democratic traditions. Social leaders exchanged gossip about current news and produce prices. Street singers, musicians, fortune tellers, and evangelists competed with soapbox economists for shoppers’ attention. Gourmet dining took place at oilcloth-covered tables amidst teeming aisles. As new tides of immigration swept into the city, Lexington Market acquired new blood, with new stall keepers offering unique foods over their counters.
Lexington Market is currently working with planners who have revitalized historic markets all around America to bring in more food vendors, open an outdoor farmer’s market, remodel and expand their current space. Additionally, they want to build special event and education spaces, including a demonstration kitchen, a cooking lab for kids, and a shared commercial kitchen. Lexington Market will continue its support of the community by providing affordable vending opportunities, particularly for independent, locally-owned businesses and regional farmers.
Find out more about Lexington Market online.